Marius Els was killed by his pet hippopotamus Humphrey on Saturday. Six year-old Humphrey attacked the South African man at his farm, repeatedly biting and gouging his owner.
Els' body was found in a river that ran through his 400-acre farm.
Els raised 20 species of exotic animals, but had formed a special relationship with Humphrey the Hippo, whom he rescued when Humphrey was a calf. The farmer would hand feed the hippo apples and described the animal as loveable and a gentle giant.
I can ride him like a horse, Els said in a video titled I Love Humphrey, My Pet Hippo.
Humphrey's like a son to me, he's just like a human... There's a relationship between me and Humphrey and that's what some people don't understand.
But, Humphrey had a mean streak and was allegedly responsible for attacking and killing a number of cows owned by Els' business partner earlier this year. He also attacked two canoeists on the Vaal river in March, sending them scrambling into trees for safety, according to The Daily Mail.
The hippopotamus is the deadliest animal in Africa, and is responsible for killing more humans than lions, crocodiles and poisonous snakes. They are notoriously aggressive, and contrary to their appearance, hippos are actually quite fast and can run up to 20 miles per hour.
They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and domestic animals. But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa, Els said earlier this year.
Humphrey weighed more than 2,600 pounds when he attacked Els. Els was reportedly warned by friends on numerous occasions that an attack was inevitable, but all warnings were ignored.
Perhaps the animal lover should have taken a cue from some of Africa's most famous adventurers:
Nearly all of the famous African explorers and hunters--Livingstone, Stanley, Burton, Selous, Speke, DuChaillu--had boating mishaps with hippos, Science Digest reported in the 1974 article The Dangerous Hippo.
All considered the hippo to be a wantonly malicious beast. Not long ago Spencer Tyron, a white hunter, was killed while hunting near the shores of Lake Rukwa, Tanzania. A bull hippo turned over the dugout canoe from which Tyron was shooting, and bit off his head and shoulders.